What is your anger telling you?
Have you ever been told, ‘don’t get angry’ or ‘don’t let anger get the better of you’? We all know how destructive anger can be. However anger, especially for women, is an important emotion that needs to be paid attention to.
Often, we hear of emotions being either positive or negative, with anger being on the top of the list of emotions to avoid.
It’s more helpful though, to have a neutral stance and notice what’s going on within your emotional state. All emotions are there for a purpose as they’re constantly providing information about what’s going on inside.
WHAT IS OUR ANGER TRYING TO TELL US?
Anger gives us 3 messages:
- I’m not getting what I want.
- I’m not getting what I need.
- I don’t like the way I’m being treated.
These messages come hard and fast. In fact all emotions do. They only last in the brain for ninety seconds. As such, emotions prompt us to act and respond in certain ways. When we are angry we usually experience the following:
- A red face;
- shaking body or hands;
- feeling hot;
- heavy or fast breathing;
- mind going blank;
- feeling sick in the stomach;
- scowling facial expression;
- clenching of fists;
- pacing around the room;
- start swearing;
- going quiet and shutting down;
- constantly thinking about a problem; and
When anger is destructive we can:
- Insult someone;
- become aggressive;
- stare at someone aggressively;
- throw things;
- raise our voice, scream or yell; or
- punch walls.
No one wants to feel this way, right? As a result, anger can become problematic when experienced at extreme ends.
Some people may suppress their Anger and internalise their frustrations, they may even be in denial of the reality of their circumstance. At the other end of the spectrum, an individual may feel entitled to behave in a destructive and/or abusive manner simply because they themselves are angry. It won’t be a surprise then to say that women are more likely to hold their anger inside, and men are more likely to be more expressive or violent.
ANGER IS IMPORTANT TO WOMEN
According to Beyond Blue, women suffer from anxiety and depression at higher rates than men. They attribute this to gender roles, economic inequality, life events such as pregnancy, motherhood, and menopause, discrimination, violence and poverty as being major contributors to it.
At the root of the emotional experience of dealing with these major life events, or of social structures that restrict or harm women, are fear and anger. That would be natural and normal. Looking across our social landscape, it’s no wonder that women are experiencing these mental health issues at such high rates.
Within this context, anger is important for women because it’s the first line of defence. That is, women will often feel that they don’t have a right to be angry because of the culture they find themselves in, and tend to switch themselves off. Many domestic or family violence victims find it hard to access or even recognise their justifiable anger.
Freud believed that depression is anger turned inwards. That is, anger is or becomes unacceptable to express or experience and as such, it becomes repressed.
When I’m working with clients who are depressed, repressed anger will usually show up. Along with that repressed anger would be a history of some kind of abuse. The first step is often the hardest. I work with clients to help them to recognise and acknowledge their feelings of anger, and what to do with it.
WHAT TO DO WITH ANGER
The best starting point is to go back to angers message. Am I getting what I want or need? Is someone behaving in an unacceptable way towards me? This can apply to something that has occurred in the past, or in the present moment.
As previously said, because of the speed of emotions, it can be hard to think this through logically in the heat of the moment. So, it’s important to slow it down and give yourself space to deal with your own reaction. Then when you’re calm, decide how to act.
Healthy ways of getting anger out of your system can be:
- exercise, this can be simply going for a walk;
- punch or yell into a pillow;
- write out your feelings down;
- use breathing exercises to help calm down and soothe yourself.
If you have other ways that you find helpful to deal with anger please share it below.
WHAT ANGER CAN ACHIEVE
Without anger, we wouldn’t have political movements or social activism. We wouldn’t have many professions that have grown out of the need to address social justice issues like poverty, starvation, and equal rights. If anger was not expressed or made legitimate, we wouldn’t have some of the most beautiful art, music or literature from around the world.
So the next time you feel angry ask yourself what’s going on inside. Are you having a temper tantrum simply because things aren’t going your way?
Or, are you missing an opportunity to help yourself find a way out of a difficult situation? Either way, there will be an answer, and the answer is in you.